With the Premier League approaching the run-in, we’ve looked at a selection of players who’ve perhaps gone under the radar with their impressive contributions in 2023/24.
Leon Bailey – Aston Villa
Aston Villa have been one of the stories of the season in the Premier League, with Unai Emery’s team inside the top four and dreaming of Champions League football. There has been no shortage of standouts in the Villa team this season, but while Ollie Watkins, Douglas Luiz and Emi Martinez all command plenty of headlines, the sheer effectiveness of Leon Bailey has been under-appreciated.
An exciting talent, Bailey was linked with a number of the Premier League’s elite before his £30m move to Aston Villa in 2021, but his first two seasons in England saw the winger struggle for consistency and fitness.
Leon Bailey’s season on season stats for Aston Villa in the Premier League:
2021/22: 3 goal contributions (1 goal, 2 assists)
2022/23: 8 goal contributions (4 goals, 4 assists)
2023/24: 13 goal contributions (7 goals, 6 assists) 📈#avfc | #utv | #vtid | @leonbailey pic.twitter.com/wPqTMgTyTE
— Aston Villa Statto (@AVFCStatto) February 5, 2024
This season, the 26-year-old has been reborn, scoring 10 times in all competitions. Bailey has seven goals and six assists from only 10 league starts, averaging a goal or assist every 78.4 minutes. Bailey has the best non-penalty goals and assists per 90 ratio in the division (1.15), ahead of Erling Haaland.
Pascal Gross – Brighton
Pascal Gross is one of those players for whom it seems no matter the level of his quality and consistency, he never truly gets his flowers. The 32-year-old is in the midst of another fine season at Brighton, however, having scored three goals and laid on eight assists.
Only Ollie Watkins (10) and Kieran Trippier (9) have provided more assists in the Premier League this season, while the German’s return of eight is the joint-best of his career in English football, with plenty of football still to play.
Pascal Gross against Crystal Palace — ranked against Brighton players:
🥇 14/15 final-third passes completed
🥇 4/6 tackles won
🥇 3 chances created (2 big chances)
🥉 114/118 passes completed
— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) February 3, 2024
That Gross retains such levels despite the inconsistency in his positioning makes his performances all the more remarkable, having featured in both full-back positions and various midfield roles during the current campaign.
He might be under-appreciated outside of the Amex, but Gross is a manager’s dream.
Vinicius Souza – Sheffield United
Sheffield United’s torrid return to the Premier League has meant positives have been rare at Bramall Lane this season, though the performances of Vinicius Souza could turn the heads of rival teams should the Blades drop out of the top tier.
A summer arrival from Lommel after an impressive season on loan at Espanyol last season, Souza has been one of the Premier League’s most prolific ball-winners during the current campaign.
The 24-year-old has won 49 tackles in the Premier League this season, the joint-most in the division alongside Fulham’s Joao Palhinha and a leading total in Europe’s top five leagues. Expect significant interest in the South American in the summer.
Jordan Pickford – Everton
Everton are up against it this season after the club’s 10-point sanction for breaching Profit and Sustainability Rules, but an impressive defensive record has given Sean Dyche’s team a real chance of survival.
Only Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals than the Toffees this season, with the defensive axis of James Tarkowski and Jarrad Branthwaite at centre-back and Jordan Pickford in goal central to that. The latter continues to divide opinion despite a largely unchallenged status as England’s number one, though the 29-year-old leads the Premier League for clean sheets (8) so far this season.
An excellent agile stop in the recent goalless draw at Fulham was the latest big moment Pickford has produced, with the England international having set his sights on the Premier League’s Golden Glove. The award has never previously been won by a goalkeeper playing for a team outside the ‘Big Six’.
Everton and England’s number one. 😱
— Everton (@Everton) January 31, 2024
Chiedozie Ogbene – Luton
Luton have exceeded expectations to be the promoted side with the best chance of survival this season, with Rob Edwards’ team narrowly outside of the relegation places at present.
The Hatters’ squad is made up of players whose careers have largely consisted of lower-league football, though several have adapted well to the demands of the Premier League.
Chiedozie Ogbene, a free transfer arrival from Rotherham in the summer, has been an eye-catching performer for Luton with the winger’s electricity having tormented several top-flight sides.
The Republic of Ireland international ranks sixth in the Premier League for successful take-ons this season and is in the 96th percentile of wingers in Europe’s top five leagues for progressive carries per 90 minutes (5.96). His lightning pace has been a real weapon for Luton.